Trial Balloon

Trial Balloon: May 10, 2010 Archive

On the Moons of Saturn

Posted at 6:00 AM on May 10, 2010 by Dale Connelly (32 Comments)
Filed under: Time & Space

Careful listeners to Radio Heartland will notice I am not in the studio today. Family business has called me away but I'll be back with a "live" show tomorrow.

Moons of Saturn.jpg

Speaking of traveling, the Cassini spacecraft continues to send startling and beautiful images back from Saturn. This one was posted on the mission's website last week, showing two moons appearing to race around one of the planet's rings.

Fans of the movie Avatar might note with interest that the real-life moon Pandora is on the left, looking considerably less inviting than it's digitally realized Hollywood namesake. Epimetheus is on the right, appearing to be take the lead on the inside along the rail. Actually, Pandora is slightly closer to the camera. Epimetheus's slightly larger size might aid the optical illusion.

Moons of Saturn edge.jpg

In another weird optical illusion that I attribute to fatigue and the unpredictable nature of light, if you turn the photgraph on its edge, the ring is reminiscent of the famous Gateway Arch in St. Louis, and those chunky moons start to resemble parachutists about to make an illegal and ill-advised pass-through.

Or is it an open gas flame on the kitchen stovetop with a couple of wayward toast crumbs about to be incinerated?

Clearly I'm disoriented. But that's the way it is in space. The absence of oxygen can cause you to hallucinate. Some people imagine that have the right to sell parcels of property on the moon, and I suppose they'll make a little money as long as they can convince others to buy it. One website offers entire cityscapes for sale.

Why not establish Annaville or Clydopolis now, when land is cheap? Occupying it and getting settlers to come is another story, not to mention the inevitable court battles and more mundane housekeeping problems like Moon dust. But at least in space you don't have to go too far to find a vacuum.

I confess to being a sucker for the picturesque rings of Saturn, so I could see metropolitan Dale City springing up on Epimetheus someday. But once space tourism is possible I suppose any terrain with a good view of the rings will be as crowded as Yellowstone in July.

if you could go anywhere in the cosmos for a visit, knowing you'd return safely without spending your entire life on the journey, where would you go?

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